By Will Holden
I am a real sucker for comic stories that have a differing view point from the majority, this often takes the form of alternative superhero tales or high concept sci-fi affairs for me but in the case of Malika: Warrior Queen (Pronounced Ma-LIE-ka), the differing view point is one of its cultural basis.
Malika: Warrior Queen is set in 15th Century West Africa following the exploits of Malika, the head of state for the Empire of Azzaz. This position was inherited from her father which has plunged the empire into unrest and civil war. Malika’s uncle, Bakwa The Butcher, believes he is the rightful heir to the throne and many within the empire agree. On top of the civil unrest Malika and the Azzaz Empire are also beset by the Ming Dynasty who wish to conquer the extensive lands held by the empire.
Malika: Warrior Queen is published by YouNeek Studios, a relatively new studio who are dedicated to providing exciting action and superhero content based on African myth and culture, employing African writers and artists to properly represent the themes and characters. Malika is created and written by Roye Okupe, who is also the CEO of YouNeek Studios, with pencils from Chima Kalu and colours by Raphael Kazeem, these may not be familiar names but their skills and talents are on full show within the pages of Malika. Interestingly, the concept art for the Ming Dynasty has been provided by a different group of artists, presumably to get a more accurate and sensitive portrayal of a different culture, something a few of the big publishers could learn from.
The art throughout this book is top notch with some highly detailed line work and really vibrant colouring. The panels are often very dynamic and unusual, combining many different shapes and sizes when framing an image, each page looks interesting to the eye at a glance. I really enjoyed the map of the empire at the start of each issue which lends the story a gravitas akin to big fantasy novels.
This series is one piece of a larger connected universe, called the YouNeek YouNiverse, which includes several other African based characters that span a broad timeline allowing the the studio to tell stories in the past, present and future while keeping everything tied together.
YouNeek Studios have also produced an animated short for Malika: Warrior Queen, which garnered some attention being nominated for several film awards and winning best animated short at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards and Best Animation Award at the African International Film Festival Globe Awards, it is available on YouTube and you can find a link at the bottom of this recommendation. YouNeek Studios also have their own subscription service which can be likened to Marvel Unlimited.
I highly recommend giving this book a go, it’s fresh and new for a typically western-based reader (such as myself) while maintaining a really high quality throughout. If the setting of ancient African empires doesn’t float your boat I would also recommend any of the other properties in the YouNeek YouNiverse, there’s something for everyone.
5 Empires out of 5.
You can grab yourself a copy of Malika: Warrior Queen from these lovely places:
You can watch the Malika: Warrior Queen animation here.